There is a family of perfumes composed by the same brilliant perfumer: Aramis being the butch Godfather patriach, well behaved on the outside, dangerously brooding on the inside. Cabochard is the maternal force turning the neck (and therefore the head as well) in any which way she likes, while Azurée is the younger long-haired son or daughter driving fast without a licence. They could have been The Sopranos, had the show been more stylish-oriented and retro glamorous. Or not. It doesn't matter, we can imagine. For those who didn't know it, Azurée (1969) is by the great Bernard Chant, the guy behind both Cabochard and Aramis; a fresher interpretation of the Aramis idea given a luminous fruity topnote of refreshing bergamot, while still remaining resolutely herbal.
Chant was mad for chypres, skanky animalic or non; his Aromatics Elixir for Clinique is a seminal study on mossy herbal patchouli with a big rose lurking inside the bush. Azurée, albeit herbally green and chyprish, is softer than leathery Bandit and lacks the acid green bite of the quinolines that compose the latter's leather note, thus making it more approachable, if largely unsung.
The zeitgeist and the image
Azurée is unsung because it's an atypical Lauder fragrance. Usually big, expansive and highly floral femme in a very American way, Lauder fragrances are of a routinely high standard, yet of a somewhat "mainstream" image that belies their quality. It's all down to advertising and positioning; the repeat customer of Lauder (in makeup and cosmetics as well as fragrances) is the middle-aged, middle-class woman of predictably good taste, which tends to (unfortunately) brand the house as "unexciting". Azurée however could pass as a niche offering for the customers of -say- Beautiful or Pleasures. If it were embottled in a dark squarish flacon in the Tom Ford Privée line I bet it would be hailed as the new best thing. And it would cost the stars too, while I hear Azurée will only set you back about 40$.
We tend to forget that what passes as niche today was actually mainstream all right in 1969, when Azurée launched. We also tend to forget that the Mediterranean ideal that niche perfumes today advertise with the accompanying imagery/concept (from Aqua di Parma Blu Mediterraneo fragrances to Ninfeo Mio and Philosykos) was incorporated into perfume releases then without any visual or conceptual stimulus. It's odd to think Azurée as a perfume for Chicago wearing; it's just so darn South of France (or Capri-like) in its ambience! After all that's where its name derives from. I can almost see Romy Schneider in La Piscine putting some on casually before embarking in that fateful romance. Or think the swagger of Lauren Hutton when she was in her prime.
But then again, 1969 was the time of the sexual revolution and the fragrances matched the spirit of the times. To quote Queen, these "fat bottomed girls [were] gonna let it all hang out [and] make the rocking world go round"; out for good fun and expected to be worn indiscriminately, without pretence. Azurée is one such gal.
The citrusy introduction of Azurée is wonderfully clean, bitterish and STRONG, providing the ouverture to an aria of leather, tar-like notes fanned on flowers and herbs. But the flowers don't register as especially feminine or romantic, rendering Azurée perfect for sharing between the sexes. A peppery twist is running throughout the fragrance, stemming from the herbal and basil notes and the more the scent dries down on skin the more the herbal and mossy character is surfacing. The perfume straddles several families in fact, from aldehydic, green/herbal, woody
& leather without trying to please everyone and ending up pleasing nobody; and that's a great thing!
The herbal and pungent character makes it very detached from today's sweet sensibilities, unless we're talking about niche perfume wearers joining you, so it's advisable to limit its use to smart company and minute application (it's POTENT stuff!). Amazingly, it's also not ruined through various reformulations, so great value for money all around.
Please note: The classic Azurée is NOT to be confused with Azurée Soleil (also very good but in a completely different game) or any of similarly named "beachy scent" summer variant to be launched in the future perhaps. You will know you got the classic, if you had to ask the sales assistant at the Lauder counter to get this out of the back of her drawer, like it were illegal contraband.
Notes for E.Lauder Azurée:
Top notes: Aldehydes, bergamot, artemesia, gardenia
Heart notes: Jasmine, geranium, cyclamen, orris, ylang-ylang
Base notes: Leather, patchouli, oakmoss, musk, amber
And another set of notes, via Basenotes:
top: basil, jasmine, and citrus
heart: armoise, sage, spearmint, vetiver, and rose
base: patchouli, moss, and amber
pics of Romy Schneider & Alain Delon in La Piscine via europeanbreakfast.tumblr and habituallychic.blogspot.com